How do you go on living if you wake up one day unable to speak, unable to move, and only able to blink one eyelid?
This is the seemingly impossible challenge faced by former real-life French Elle editor Jean-Domonique Bauby after, at the age of 43, he suffers a massive stroke. Bauby has team of talented and empathetic doctors, nurses, and speech therapists to guide him along the way but overcoming the understandable paralysis of self-pity will have to come from within. Learning to communicate again won’t be easy. Especially when, as you’ll soon see, communicating with his family wasn’t easy for him to being with.
Shot almost entirely through the one good eye of a paralyzed man, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly could easily have been unwatchable. Instead, director Julain Schnabel offers us something life-affirming and almost excruciatingly beautiful. Schnabel’s lens takes us on a breathtaking journey through Bauby’s imagination while Bauby’s interior monologue, based on his own memoir, is painfully honest but often very funny.
The great Mathieu Amalric, who you may know from American films such as Quantum of Solace, Munich, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, gives an unforgettable performance, almost literally without moving a muscle. Also, watch out for the lovely Canadian actress Marie-Josée Croze as a speech therapist with unwavering faith and Max von Sydow as Bauby’s father. If you aren’t bothered by French subtitles- or a POV shot of one’s one eye being sewn shut, you just might be glad you gave this film a chance.